SINGAPORE - Crash Landing On You, which stars the popular Hyun Bin and Son Ye-Jin, smashed viewing records with its finale on Sunday (Feb 16).
According to Nielsen Korea, the show has become the second-highest-rated drama in South Korean cable television history, with a peak rating of 21.7 per cent. It is just behind Sky Castle, a drama about South Korean "tiger mums" which achieved a peak rating of 23.8 per cent in February 2019.
In Crash, a South Korean heiress played by Son is blown into North Korean territory while paragliding and meets a dashing North Korean army captain played by Hyun.
For Mr Raymond Babol, a Filipino expatriate based in Singapore, the appeal of Crash similarly transcends borders.
The 36-year-old senior designer says: "My siblings in the Philippines and my aunt in the United States were talking about it in our group chat, so I decided to start watching it."
Since then, Mr Babol says that he has gotten hooked on the storyline. He even cried at the finale, which he found brilliant.
He adds: "I am going to recommend this to every person I know."
Similarly, piano teacher, Madam Tan Sok Hoon, 51, and her husband watch the show religiously and are particularly fond of the leading lady's wit.
Administrative executive Crystal Ling, 28, who follows the show, is also a fan of lead actress Son. "I've watched almost all of her shows," she says.
As for 19-year-old Tan Qiao Lin, a relief history teacher, she enjoyed the way the show humanised the North Korean citizens: "It was entertaining to see them going to computer cafes and getting into online games."
She also liked the depiction of the relationships between North and South: "The show made me aware of the sadness and longing that Koreans who have family or friends on the other side of the DMZ (demilitarised zone) must be feeling."
"It was bittersweet when the characters' return to their respective sides because they can never see each other again."
Suffering from withdrawal symptoms? Here are eight things to know about the show:
1. So close yet so far
No, none of the scenes were shot in North Korea. Instead, filming took place not just within South Korean locations such as Jeju, but also in countries like Mongolia and Switzerland.
2. Star writer
Park Ji-eun, the screenwriter of Crash Landing On You, has many other hit K-dramas under her belt, including My Love From The Star (2013-2014), The Producers (2015) and Legend Of The Blue Sea (2016).
3. Inspired by real incident
Screenwriter Park drew inspiration from actress Jung Yang's 2008 accident. The actress was sailing in Incheon when her boat was swept away due to the weather conditions, causing her to almost cross the 38th parallel - the border between North and South Korea.
4. Defector consultant
The production team had consulted North Korean defector-turned-YouTuber and reality TV celebrity Kang Nara on details about life in the country. Kang, 22, had defected in 2014 - her mother had paid a broker to smuggle her into China.
She took a roundabout route through China, Myanmar and Thailand before arriving in South Korea to reunite with her mother, who had defected two years earlier in 2012.
5. Did the show get North Korea right?
According to Kang, about 60 per cent of the portrayal of North Korea is accurate. "The richer families in North Korea like to show off their wealth by adding lace curtains to their windows. So that was pretty well portrayed," she commented. She also appreciated the detail about kimchi caves.
"Since rural North Korea doesn't get electricity, they don't have refrigerators. They have kimchi caves where they store kimchi, and that was also recreated well," she added.
6. The leads reunite in the show
This is not the first show where lead actors Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin have starred together - they had first done so in 2018 South Korean action crime thriller film, The Negotiation. Son played Chae Yoon, a member of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency's crisis negotiation team, while Hyun played Tae Gu, an arms dealer who had kidnapped two Koreans in Bangkok.
7. Gold Olive Chicken gets a boost
The popularity of the show has given a boost to businesses such as South Korean chicken franchise Genesis BBQ and jeweller Swarovski. In the show, the lead characters eat Genesis BBQ's speciality Gold Olive Chicken, while Son Ye-jin's heiress character wears a pair of Swarovski earrings.